(Restaurant review will be Part Two)
I first want to say THANK YOU to all of those who helped us plan a spectacular trip –POTCAKE IN PARTICULAR! This forum was such a valuable resource and when we touched down in Provo I could not wait to experience all that I had read about. I arrived with a binder filled with information and copies of Trip Advisor posts. I was ready to see it all! And I was NOT disappointed!
There were 6 of us (3 couples) traveling together (as we have done the last several years). We all have been to several “tropical” places but this was our first trip to Provo. We ALL agreed that Provo is now at the top of our lists of favorite places.
Here are some stats: 2 couples from Cape Cod, MA and one from Bethel, CT. We flew American Airlines in and out of JFK, non-stop flight (tickets purchased in Sept. 05 for $450 each). We stayed for 9 nights (two at the Sibonne and 7 at a villa in the Turtle Tail area).
Here are some of our observations:
American Airlines was great – no hassles. We arrived on time each way. They also showed a movie on each flight.
Cars are not inexpensive to rent but having two was a must for us because we needed flexibility to be able to do what we wanted each day. We paid $850 for Suzuki Vitara and $855 for a Jeep Wrangler for 10 days (these prices include tax, 1 additional driver on each vehicle, and a 1/2 tank of gas). (Yikes!) The cars were not “old” (maybe two years?) but they were pretty beat-up (having driven on the Provo Roads for 10 days I see why). Both cars had 4WD. The Jeep was a soft-top with no “sides.” If you want “windows” so you can secure your Jeep, make sure you specify a hard-top when making your reservation. The soft-top was fine for our touring purposes but would not have been so great if it was the only vehicle we had rented or if it rained.
The Hertz people were not very friendly when we picked up the cars and I had to dispute the first “estimate of charges” they gave me because it did not reflect a Hertz discount I was supposed to have received through an American Airlines/Hertz promotion. Fortunately I had the appropriate paperwork from the hertz.com web site (where I made my reservation) and the Provo Hertz office redid the estimate. Make sure you bring copies of all confirmations with you, just in case. I would not have gotten the discount if I did not have that with me (saved 10% I think).
When we dropped off the cars, the staff was friendlier and the check-out process was fairly quick and easy.
Sibonne 3/23 – 3/24
This hotel was exactly as described in previous posts – small and intimate setting, unpretentious, with all of the beauty Grace Bay has to offer. No frills, but the price was right ($175 a night)! This hotel was clean and quiet. We were very surprised to learn that they were full because it did not seem overly crowded at any point (and I was able to get chairs under a tiki hut on the beach at 9am one morning). Towels were very thin (as others have stated) and hard to get (they ran out twice while we were there).
I don’t think I would have stayed here for an entire week but for two nights and to help us extend our vacation, it was perfect.
The only negative I would note is that the checkout for one of the couples was a bit of a hassle. They were using a Visa Gift card (they had confirmed with Visa that the card was active and could be used in Provo prior to departure) but the front desk clerk was not able to process the transaction. When my sister asked if she could call the number on the card to see what the problem was, the front desk clerk rudely snapped “no” because the call would cost money. She ended up having to pay with a credit card, which was not a big deal. The attitude of the clerk was more troublesome than anything. The card DID work at the Palms a few days later so we have attributed the problem at Sibonne to be a problem with how the clerk was completing the transaction. Their unwillingness to help resolve the issue left a bad taste in our mouths.
The rest of the staff was very friendly and polite. The "bellhop"/gardener/handyman person was extremely nice.
We wanted to get massages one day while we were on Provo and we narrowed it down to Grace Point’s Thalasso Spa and The Palms Spa (both offering pre-natal massages for my pregnant sister). On Monday we drove to The Palms to tour the spa and grounds and determine if it would be worth the considerable cost. We thought the spa and grounds were beautiful and decided it would be a true experience to have massages here, so we made reservations for the following day (surprisingly they had many appointments available). I would have to say the entire experience was worth the money. The setting was tranquil and unique - as soon as you step into the reflection pool area you feel a sense of calm. The massages are done in individual stone cabanas with light flowing curtains and typical relaxing music. The massage therapists (and the entire staff, for that matter) were professional and pleasant. My sister did not think her “New Beginnings” massage was exactly as it had been described in the brochure (there was no “flotation bed”) but she enjoyed it just the same. I had the Mediterranean Sea Massage and it was great. Our friend had a Fiducae (sp?) massage and said it was one of the best she has ever had (a variety of massage techniques and a facial all in one). All three of us left feeling relaxed and glowing and we all agreed our skin was soft and radiant from the lotion they put on us.
We also had lunch at The Palms “Plunge” Restaurant (pool side) and it was one of the BEST meals we had the whole week. Hard to believe lobster salad, a turkey club and fries could be so outstanding but they really were. Prices were a little high - (bill was $90 incl. tax and tip) - but WELL WORTH IT. We kept wanting to go back for another lunch but never did. But we talked about it all week! The service was also the best we had all week.
One note – we were there on a slightly cloudy day and the pool area was jam-packed – not a chair to spare and we saw lots of people circling to try to find a seat. For the prices people pay to stay at this resort, I would have thought there would be enough chairs!
Pulse Gym (Saltmills Plaza)
My husband worked out at this gym and they had free weights, Nautilus equipment, and several cardio machines. It was $15 for a day pass. The people were very friendly and very helpful (especially with island tourism info).
Our three guys’ main objective for our vacation was to catch fish! They came armed with spinning rods, reels, lures, etc. They went out almost every day (usually at 6am and were gone until the afternoon). The bone-fish, as expected, proved to be elusive and they hooked a few but not nearly as many as they would have liked! Flamingo Lake and the South Shore waters were the best spots they tried. They also caught yellow snapper, barracuda, and pompano from shore (at the inlet entrances). They also tried to catch lobster (before 4/1) and these were even more difficult than the bone-fish. Our dinner plan for grilled lobster one night was not possible with the one little thing they caught!
We went to the IGA on Saturday to buy our groceries for our stay in the villa. We planned to eat our breakfasts and most of our lunches at the house and then eat dinners out. We spent $240 that first day and got most of the essential items we thought we would need (stuff for our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, drinks, etc.). Prices were about what we had expected (some things were the same as U.S. prices but other things, like dairy and OJ, were considerably more). We thought the best comparison would be U.S. grocery stores without the sales (e.g. deli ham is about $8.99 lb near us unless it is on sale). They had run out of some things we had wanted (oddly, regular green olives were not available the entire time we were there). Suggest bringing items that you HAVE to have, just in case.
I had two complaints about the store: (1) the bathroom was one of the most disgusting bathrooms I have ever set foot in (not what you want in a grocery store!), (2) the deli department staff was downright rude (acted like they were doing me a favor by even being there) and they made errors with my order (you place your order, they write it down, and then you go back to pick it up). When I pointed out that I did not get the ham I had ordered and the price for one of the cheeses was wrong, they seemed extremely aggravated that I wanted them to give me the correct items/price. I was NOT a fan of their deli ham. The turkey was ok. I should note that I am VERY picky about my deli meat and only buy one particular brand here in the US (BH) so, if you are like me, consider other alternatives for lunch. For what it is worth, our guys thought the meat was just fine. JUST CHECK YOUR ORDER when they hand it to you.
We ended up making a few more trips back to the store (bought grill stuff for dinner one night and then had to buy other items like paper towels, pina colada mix, etc.) and I think we calculated our total grocery expense was about $140/couple for the week (this includes our alcohol purchases). We ate all breakfasts, one dinner, and all except for two lunches at the house).
Malcolm’s Beach, The Hole
The boys took the drive (about 35 min) from our house out to the NW Point and Malcolm’s Beach. They said it was nice but liked other parts of the island better.
Two members of our group went to “The Hole” and reported back that it was just that – a hole. Glad I did not waste my time. Having been to the caves of Virgin Gorda, I think I would have been unimpressed.
On our second to last day, Friday, my husband and I were touring the Chaulk Sound area and all of a sudden he slammed on the breaks and said, “I think that was a puppy” and then slammed the car into reverse. Sure enough, he had seen a teeny tiny puppy along the side of the sandy road. We looked around the area and did not see any others, nor did we see “mama dog,” so we scooped the little guy up and took him to our villa to figure out who to call and/or where to bring him. After making a call, some VERY KIND people assisted us with this “rescue.” They literally dropped everything to help us. My husband and I are insane animal lovers and while it broke our heart to know this little guy was all alone on the side of the road (how, why, we did not know at the time), we were happy that we found him. We were warned that he might have a bit of a struggle since he was without his mom at such a young age (approx 10 days old) but the kind volunteers assured us everything that could be done for him would be.
We later leaned that two women (coincidentally, also from Massachusetts) had found a box with 6 other puppies in the area not too far from where we found our little guy. I will spare readers from my furious ranting about people who are cruel to animals and instead I will devote a few minutes to the generous souls who stepped up to give all 7 of these pups a chance at a good life. People (like my husband) who are willing to stop a car because they “thought” they saw something (others might have kept driving), people like the vet who attended to all 7, and people like the volunteers giving HOURLY care to these little babies – they all restore my faith in humanity. I have to trust that karma will take care of ALL involved. Sorry for the rant but this touched experience touched a nerve….
ON A VERY HAPPY NOTE: One of the couples traveling with us is going to adopt the little guy we found (praying he is well enough to travel in several weeks) and we have no doubt his life will be the best a dog could ever have!
We bought jugs of water for the house (more out of habit and the fact that we drink filtered water at our homes) but we drank tap water at the restaurants.
We think our restaurant bills (see Trip Report Two for reviews and prices) were less than other people because we had most of our cocktails at the villa and only ordered one, if any, at the restaurants. The restaurant drink prices are pretty high ($9 in some cases) and that can quickly mean the difference between a reasonable bill and an expensive one.
It was very windy (uncharacteristically so from what we heard) and chilly at night. We needed a sweater or wrap each night and sometimes wished we had more.
Smoking is permitted in restaurants and I don’t think smoking or non-smoking seating is designated. Coming from a state where you cannot smoke in any restaurants, bars, etc., this was bothersome to us at times, especially my sister who is almost 6 months pregnant. I would not say this was a routinely pervasive problem, just something we are not used to and definitely noticed. Just be warned if you hate cigarette smoke as much as we do! Stick to the open air places…
Overall, this is probably the best vacation we have taken so far. We REALLY liked Provo and found it to have almost everything we wanted (just needed a few more stores for shopping!). Our friends golfed, the guys fished, and my sister and I were beach bums. I read 4 books! It is a very relaxing place and the majority of people we met were friendly and helpful. I liked that I felt safe enough to go for a run in the mornings and that no one harassed us to “braid our hair” on the beaches. The food was some of the best we have had during any trip (see Trip Report Two for more info). I thought it was uncrowded (despite the fact that it was considered peak season) and we had no difficulty getting around anywhere.
We can’t wait to plan our return!